Theresa May reveals risky migration target timescale

Theresa May may have to choose between risking the economy or missing her target. Credit: PA

Theresa May has suddenly indicated a timescale for her risky pledge to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands; she has suggested she wants to do it in a mere five years.

The pledge - now branded an "objective" - is not accompanied by any timeframe in the Conservative manifesto.

But earlier on Thursday the Home Office minister Brandon Lewis twice said they wanted to get there in the next parliament, ie by 2022.

Theresa May fell far short of the Conservative's migration targets during her record tenure at the Home Office. Credit: PA

Then the prime minister was asked if that five year plan was true. She said, "That's what we're working for. We're working to bring immigration down to the tens of thousands."

This carries two enormous risks.

Firstly, Mrs May couldn't get near the target in six years as home secretary so doing it in five looks a tallish order.

Theresa May's current aim has previously been condemned by former chancellor George Osborne. Credit: PA

Secondly, cutting immigration by that much is already considered "economically illiterate" by her erstwhile former Cabinet colleague George Osborne and many others.

Cutting it both by that much and that quickly could be asking for even more trouble.

So the prime minister may have to choose between risking the economy (immigrants keep living standards up and the deficit down according to the London School of Economics) or missing her target.

On recent form I'd bet on her missing the target.